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Arizona football: Defensive players to watch in training camp

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Who are the defensive players poised to take a big leap forward in 2016?

NCAA Football: Northern Arizona at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

With Arizona Wildcats training camp ready to commence on Thursday, it feels like a good time to compile a watch list for defensive players. I have broken the players into three standard levels: defensive line, linebacker and secondary.

Let us start first with the D-Line.

The offseason narrative has understandably focused on the lack of defensive line depth. The departures of Reggie Gilbert and Jeff Worthy to graduation and recent dismissals have heightened overall concerns.

It’s true that the D-Line depth chart isn’t too deep. However, there are a few playmakers with experience to keep an eye on as these three are the new leaders of the group.

First is Sani Fuimaono, who played in all 13 games last season and probably had his best performance in the upset win at home against Utah. You may not recognize him at first as he’s down approximately 40 pounds from last year. Two words to describe him: reliable and quicker.

Next is Parker Zellers. He is very similar in stature to the new Fuimaono and is equally dependable. I project the redshirt junior’s productivity to continue trending upward this season.

Last but not least is Jack Banda. We all remember his coming out party in Boulder where he recorded two sacks. His playing time and productivity increased throughout the remainder of the season. Just like Zellers, expect this upward trend to continue.

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Last season’s injuries at linebacker were well documented. It got so bad that Paul Magloire was moved to LB to help weather-the-storm. It is anticipated that he will remain with the group this season. He is one of the more recognizable names, and plenty of eyes will be on him so let’s take a look at a few others.

Graduate transfer Michael Barton from Cal is eligible to play immediately. I have been told that he is projected to backup Cody Ippolito. However, don’t be surprised if the former 4-star recruit sees significant playing time this year.

Another recognizable name is DeAndre’ Miller. He is easily one of my favorite players on the defense. The 2015 injuries forced this young man into major playing time and he handled it like a seasoned veteran. I fully expect him to have a breakout year and blossom into one of the leaders of the team.

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The secondary has seen plenty of turnover during the last two offseasons. The obvious players to watch are seniors Tellas Jones and DaVonte’ Neal. They are extremely talented and will do big things for the back-end of the defense.

However, the other two players you should be watching are Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and Anthony Mariscal. Demetrius saw limited time last season as a true freshman, while Anthony redshirted. These two underclassmen are expected to play big roles in the secondary this season.